Another tour company question

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Mar 11th, 2004, 12:27 PM
  #1
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Another tour company question

Hi. We were orginally going to Italy and unexpectedly got a great deal on flights to Africa. My ultimate dream vacation. I was advised to seek out african tour operators. I found a great tour with a tour company called Raylenne Tours & Safaris. Has anyone had any experience with them? I have searched this board and there isn't anything yet. The tour seems almost identical to an A & K tour but almost half the price. Should I be suspicious? How do you know if you can 'trust' a tour company you've never heard of.
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Mar 11th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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Cronen:

I would use a foreign travel agency only if you have some good recommendations. Perhaps someone on Fodors has used Raylenne and can give you some advice.

Where in Africa are you going? I have used Southern Cross Safaris in Mombasa on all five of my trips. They have been in business since 1957 and have an excellent reputation. They also handle Tanzanian safaris.

If you are going to either Kenya or Tanzania I would definitly look up their website. Email Torben or Chomba giving them what you are interested in and they will email you back with an estimate. Some of the Kenyan tour operators have had trouble with the "spam police" and you get a notice your mail is undelivered. Just resend it and they usually respond within 24 hours.

Many of the Fodorites are southern African fans and perhaps they can give you some local companies there.

Jan
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Mar 11th, 2004, 01:07 PM
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Thanks Jan. Here is what I'm thinking so far. Nairobi-Aberdares - staying at the Treetops Lodge
Lake Nakuru National Park -Lake Nakuru Lodge
Maasai Mara National Reserve.Mara Soop lodge
Amboseli - Ol Tukai lodge
Ngoro Ngoro - Masai Mara Game Reserve

We were thinking of adding a beach destination such as Mombasa. What do you think? I have a nine year old traveling with me. I will definitely contact your tour operator suggestions.
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Mar 11th, 2004, 01:40 PM
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Cronen:

The only lodge I have stayed at is Ol Tukai and I absolutely love the place. Wonderful landscaping, nice pool, but the best of all is the wonderful caring employees. You pick either an elephant view room or Kilimanjaro view room. My favorite is elephant view and I look at the elephants in the swamp all day long.
I've heard excellent things about Sopa Lodge also. If you are thinking in terms of the beaches around Mombasa, you might also want to think about doing several nights at Satao Camp in Tsavo East. It is a tented camp run by Southern Cross Safaris where I have stayed on all five trips. Tsavo is a little different than the other parks in that not too many people bother to go there and it is not crowded at all. It is probably the largest park in Africa - about the size of the state of Massachusetts! It is about a two hour drive from Mombasa. The tents are very nicely done with queen sized beds, private indoor bathroom, refrigerators, fans, etc. Your 9-year old would love it. The only thing with Tsavo is you have to remember what you see will depend on when they last had rain. If it is the dry season, you'll see tons of all kids of animals. If it has recently rained and the waterholes are filled up all over the park the animals disperse and you'll have to depend on your game drives to find them. January of 2003 and in September there were hundreds of elephants at the borehole right in front of my tent. However, this January they had had rain and we didn't see any animals at the borehole but saw lions, cheetahs, buffalo, zebra, etc on game drives.

The only thing I might caution is don't try to take it all in in one trip. You're covering a lot of ground in your itinerary. The Kenyan rounds are bad and if you choose a driving trip you will be tired. I fly from park to park and find it very easy. However, once you've been to Kenya you will fall in love with it and you'll be as addicted as many of us on this website and want to go back again as soon as possible. Feel free to email me [email protected] if you have any further questions. I'd be glad to get in touch with my contacts in Kanya and be sure you are well taken care of.

Jan

Jan

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Mar 11th, 2004, 04:10 PM
  #5
sandi
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Cronen - First let me say that you should't be surprised to fine a tour similar to A&K at way less money. However, you really have to compare the number of days at each reserve (area), the accommodations, and time of year, means of travel between these locations, to name a few.

You indicated the following:
Nairobi-Aberdares - staying at the Treetops Lodge
Lake Nakuru National Park -Lake Nakuru Lodge
Maasai Mara National Reserve.Mara Soop lodge
Amboseli - Ol Tukai lodge
Ngoro Ngoro - Masai Mara Game Reserve

In the Maasai Mara, do you possibly mean the Mara Sopa Lodge? There is no "Soop" lodge.
And the last item - Ngorongoro is in Tanzania, not Kenya. It is also a long way to travel from Amboseli into Tanzania and the Crater.

You don't indicate how long a trip, again, how may days at each camp/park, means of transport, and very important "what time of year"

As to Raylenne T&S, haven't heard of them, but certainly no one can know every tour operator. However, besides the itinerary and good price, what information is provided on their site - what kind of history do they have, since when have they been in business, other background information, maybe even comments from previous travelers with them.

I certainly don't have enough information to determine whether this is a good and reputable deal, but maybe someone else might more input on this company
 
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Mar 11th, 2004, 05:41 PM
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Cronen: No, you shouldn't be surprised at the different prices offered by tour operators. When we went to Kenya and Tanzania in 2002, I looked at A&K, Micato, Thompson Safaris, Ker & Downey, etc. before hearing from a friend about an Arusha-based tour operator (Roy Safaris Ltd.) I contacted Roy Safaris and had them price exactly what I wanted, having decided to do a custom safari. Went back to some of the others and their prices were significantly more, in some cases by $2,000 pp. So, it pays to do your homework. The one thing that I will say about the itinerary that you are looking at, is you are missing out on staying "under canvas," which I think is a marvelous experience. What is lacking are any permanent tented camp sites. Believe me, sleeping under canvas in Africa is truly a spectacular experience. Most of the permanent tented camps have ensuite showers and flush toilets inside the tent, so you would not in any way be sacrificing comfort! What time of year are you looking to travel? And will you be driving from location to location? Please tell us more. As Sandi said, there is really no way of knowing if a tour operator is reliable. But I would suggest you check with either the Kenya Tourist Board or the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators to see if the tour company is a member. That is a good place to start, if word of mouth is not an option.
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Mar 11th, 2004, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for the replies so far. Everyone has given me something to think about. I'm leaving June 25th returning July 18th. I'm trying to go to both Kenya and Tanzania plus maybe add a couple days at the beach in 18 days. I expect to fly to certain camps, but is this too much? To answer questions, Yes, it is the Mara Sopa Lodge but in tented camps. Does the above postings sound like a good itinerary? Africa is sooo big. Any suggestions about what to see or where to go or advice on tour operators is really appreciated.
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Mar 11th, 2004, 10:30 PM
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Off-topic I know, but Jan's comment about Tsavo being probably the largest park in Africa got me wondering how Kruger compared. It seems as if Kruger itself is slightly smaller. ("Almost 2m hectares, according to the website, compared with Tsavo's 2.1m.)

But the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a joint agreement between the countries of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe will include The Kruger National Park, the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. It will cover an area of 3577144 hectares. If the problems in Zim don't scupper it!
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Mar 12th, 2004, 04:45 AM
  #9
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Cronen - Given the dates of June 25 to July 18, and assuming 3-days are for travel, you can have a 22/day trip. In that time you can cover a lot of ground, but it can be a costly trip, as it would be suggested you fly to or from some destinations.

From your original post I assume you'll be flying into Nairobi. If that is the case, you can do something like that below, but you haven't given us an idea of your budget:
Arv. NBO - 1 nt
Drive to Amboseli - 2nts
Fly via NBO to Samburu - 2nts*
Drive to Lake Nakuru - 1 nt
Drive to Masai Mara - 3 nts*
Fly to NBO connect to flite fo Arusha, Tanzania, Drive to Tarangire - 2nts
Drive to Ngorongoro - 2nts
Drive to Serengeti - 3 nts*
Fly to Lake Manyara - 2nts
Drive to Arusha, connect to flight
to Dar es Salam - 3 nts
Return flight to Arusha/Kili, fly to NBO (Wilson Airport), transfer to airport for departing flight

This is just a suggestion, if, in fact you do have 22/days. Flights are listed for the longest distances, but must be coordinated with flight schedules as not all flights are daily. And you can do a combination of tented camps (indicated by *) and lodges, and prices for accommodations can range from lo-moderate to moderate to expensive. You can also add or delete a day at any particular park.

You will notice I've eliminated Aberdares - too touristy. Also know if flying, you will be limited with the amount (weight) of luggage you can take on the planes - approx 15-20/lbs each person.

If Raylenne is the company you choose and they do custom trips, give them the above and see what price they come in with, then you have a better idea.

Anyone out there with other suggested itineraries, feel free.

 
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Mar 12th, 2004, 11:53 AM
  #10
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Dear Sandi,
Alas I have only those 18 days with travel included, not 22. What would you leave out? We don't want to spend more than $7000-$8000. I have check references Raylenne send and they are all quite good. Wondering what makes people finally decide on who to choose?
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Mar 12th, 2004, 12:33 PM
  #11
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Cronen -

To cut the costs I would eliminate Flying to and days at Samburu (2nts), and Lake Nakuru (1 nt), Manyara (2nts). Eliminating flight can cut costs, but this means more time on the roads. And with the changes below I've given you Mombassa in Kenya rather than Dar in Tanzania:

Arv. NBO - 1nt
Drive to Amboseli - 2nts
Drive fr Amboseli to Tarangire - 2nts
Drive to Ngorongoro Crater - 2nts
Drive to Serengeti - 3 nts*
Fly to Arusha, connect to flite to NBO, get late (about 3 or 4pm) flight to Masai Mara - 3nts*
Fly or Drive to NBO - (it is a 5 or 6-hr drive vs 1-hr flight. And depending on flight schedules you might have to spend 1-nt in NBO before flying out to Mombassa, instead of Dar) - 3nts*

* you can add 1-nt to any of these to make up the 18-days

That's the best I can suggest. See what Raylenne can do on accommodations and prices, and definitely contact the references they provided.


 
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